The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Let’s treat addiction not as a moral failing, but as a disease

To stem opioid deaths, our country must do something drastically different — but it isn’t legalizing heroin, as Megan McArdle suggested in her Dec. 5 op-ed, “Ready for a heroin Rx? ” We must treat addiction the way we do any other disease.

Fentanyl has acted as an accelerant on our nation’s smoldering addiction crisis and brought to light the fatal consequences of our failed strategy to treat addiction as a moral failing instead of a disease. Stigma and misunderstanding drive policy and practice instead of compassion and science. Nearly 200 people die each day because we have failed to properly equip our health-care system to provide proven, effective therapies to those with a treatable disease.

The fact that our life expectancy declined for the third year in a row from a preventable and treatable disease is a national tragedy. Center on Addiction research shows we can reverse this tragedy if we adopt a comprehensive public health approach. That should be an incredibly popular idea, and one that will assuredly stem opioid deaths.

Creighton Drury, New York

The writer is president of the Center on Addiction.